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University of Iowa News Release


July 25, 2007

Century-Old Iowa Murder Is Subject Of New UI Press Paperback

On the night of Dec. 1, 1900, Iowa farmer John Hossack was attacked and killed while he slept at home beside his wife, Margaret. On April 11, 1901, after five days of testimony before an all-male jury, Margaret Hossack was found guilty of his murder and sentenced to life in prison. One year later, she was released on bail to await a retrial; jurors at this second trial could not reach a decision, and she was freed. She died Aug. 25, 1916, leaving the mystery of her husband's death unsolved.

These events are revisited in Patricia Bryan and Thomas Wolf's "Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland," a new paperback from the University of Iowa Press that becomes available on Aug. 15. The book is available directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at In the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, or Africa, contact Eurospan by phone, +44 (0) 1767 604972, by fax +44 (0) 1767 601640, or online at

The Hossack tragedy is a compelling one and the issues surrounding the couple's domestic problems are still relevant today: Margaret Hossack's composure and stoicism, developed during years of spousal abuse, were seen as evidence of unfeminine behavior, while John Hossack -- known to be a cruel and dangerous man -- was hailed as a respectable husband and father.

"Midnight Assassin" also profiles Susan Glaspell, a journalist who reported on the Hossack murder for the Des Moines Daily. Later these same events were used as the basis for her classic short story, "A Jury of Her Peers," and the famous play "Trifles."

"Based on almost a decade of research, 'Midnight Assassin' is a story of loneliness, fear and suffering in the rural Midwest.

Bryan is professor of law at the University of North Carolina. She is the author of "Stories in Fiction and in Fact: Susan Glaspell's 'A Jury of Her Peers' and the 1901 Murder Trial of Margaret Hossack." Wolf, who received his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is a writing consultant for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

"Midnight Assassin" is part of the Bur Oak series from the UI Press. Recognizing the richness of the Midwest's heritage, this series of original and reprinted books is named after the state tree of Iowa. These books represent the UI Press' dedication to preserving the literature, history, geography and culture of the region.

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